Archive for the 'Social commentary' Category

The Rub of Social Ubiquity

Sometimes we just want to “lay low”. Sometimes we just want to pull back and do nothing. Sometimes we just don’t want to post, share, update, comment, tweet, or chat. We just want to be.  However, as each day goes by, we’re starting to see that social doesn’t sleep. The digital footprint isn’t necessarily in sand.  

Social ubiquity, unfortunately doesn’t know what laying low means. With the advent of Google+ and Facebook’s landgrab of all things social, we’re edging towards an age where we all can be found at any time. Our digital footprint is becoming one which isn’t etched in sand but more like one cast in clay and concrete. What we all need to understand though, is that Google, Facebook and Microsoft want to keep us in network, 24 seven 365.  This starts with a social network and then extends to email, to docs, to phone calls, to commerce, to video and beyond. Every one of these “actions”  has or will have a social component attached to it. If it hasn’t already.

So where do we go once we’re reached that saturation? We “retreat” and we “treat” social as a utility. It becomes part of the fabric of our lives that we use in moderation knowing that we CAN use it 24 seven 365, but we don’t. We will eventually become more identified by the social networks that we use all the time but right now we’re still deciding what camp we want to be in, while the big 3 try to figure out what we want.

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What happened to the Ah-Ha moment?

Do you remember the first time you got a blog comment? Or the first time someone followed you on Twitter. Pretty cool wasn’t it? All of a sudden this static world of reading and consumming media changed-overnight. All of a sudden we all had voices.

I remember the first time I connected with an old friend on Facebook. It immediately showed me the power of the platform and it’s infinite possibilities. Which naturally lead to these thoughts- “I can’t beleieve they found me”, “Wow do they look old” and “I wonder who else is on here”? I truly believe it was those 3 thoughts that fueled the desire for more from users who both created and consumed Facebook content. It was like crack.

Depending on your background and skillsets, the early days of social media for a lot of us, were so wonderous and so filled with curiosity. Connecting with new people who were your peers, and then having these really deep discussions through blog posts and comments or tweets on Twitter, took the power of social media for us and elevated it.

We blogged about it. We waxed poetic about it. We told whoever was listening about it, and even those who might not have been listening, how cool and powerful this thing called social media was. We were all evangelists who had Ah-ha moments.

But something has happened. The Ah-Ha moments are diminishing.

Do you remember when the internet first exploded on the scene? How everyone was enamored of it? Or how about when the iPod came along? Do you remember the cool commercials and the desire to have one, how great it was? Is it still like that? It’s not, is it? Why?

The problem?  Mass consumption and the expectations of consuming as it relates to creating.

Like any addiction, as you continue to consume, it takes more and more effort to satisfy the craving.  In social media your magical moments were created by you, but moreso by your connections. It’s just they were driven to you inversely by your effort.

We want more Ah-Ha moments but…they are just few and far between now. You’re probably thinking well a sage veteran already had their moments, it’s only for the newbies…Really? Is that the way it supposed to be? Can’t we have more?

In the “social media” beginning, your effort to have conversations equaled  a great experience because the expectations were so low and there just weren’t a lot of people in the space.

But as social media has evolved and Facebook now has it’s 500 millionth user,  the web 2.0 experience has changed what we think, what we know, and how we use it. Our experiences have been dulled and our desire for new and shiny has increased, all because of us. Why us? Because the tools and platforms that make up social media, have allowed us to create and  experience things at levels that would have blown our minds 3 years ago. Demand is way up, experiences are way down and expectations have never been higher.

Our social media experiences are just that. They are merely experiences now. Our expectations are getting so high that we’re likely to be disappointed by our experience. I worry that our expectations keep rising not only in waiting for the next big thing, or the next great connection, or great business deal, but also for the type of content we consume. Why? It creates the  false assumption amongst creators of content, that what will please us needs to constantly be elevated.

A more potent solution.  Bigger, better, faster.

Funny thing is, what really has driven growth and adoption, more than anything else-hasn’t been technology, though it has helped, it’s been about the human element. It has been about the Ah-ha moment.

It’s always been about you, me and them. We are responsible for our Ah-ha moments. They are there. We can have them anytime we want.

Practical Social Applicability

Cotton-Candy

If you wanted to look at what or why or how social media works, you have to look at its Tangible Relevance…It’s essentially the melding of being precisely identified with practical social applicability. Look no further than in an article last week in Adage by Simon Dumenco titled, “Balloon Boy, Kanye West and Lady Gaga Walk Into a Bar …”

In that piece Dumenco refers to an earlier article in which he says:

The rapid dissemination of misinformation through Twitter and other real-time social media is increasingly causing a “general derangement of reality” that’s “becoming more and more endemic to the way we consume information and communicate…

He then goes on to marvel at how the public Twitter time line reflects our fascination with Kanye, Lady Gaga and Balloon Boy. Sadly, he’s right! Now back to my opening statement. Yes social media works because of “Tangible Relevance”, but what I see slowly starting to appear, and maybe not so slowly, is a phenomenon called “irrelevant social media with zero social applicability”. Just look at what was trending; Kanye, Lady Gaga and Balloon Boy?

Simply put, the average, social media using public does not need to, nor do they desire to think while consuming social media. A) we make it easy for them not to and B) they just want to be in the moment. Watching, semi-participating but not getting dirty. Let’s call it social media rubber necking. Slowing down long enough to check out what’s going on, make a comment, say something derogatory, view some video, share some misinformation, push out your 2 cent content with zero value and move on.

The problem with all of that? It has zero social depth. There is no practical application to the content, to the story, or to the overall value. It’s like eating cotton candy. It tastes good, looks pretty, but you’re going to be hungry in an hour. Do I have a solution? Nope. Even worse? This is not going to go away or diminish in any shape, way or form. All you can do is watch and comment. Or better yet, bring value to your social engagements. Indeed a general derangement of reality is dominating common social media usage.

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Social Diversity on Social Networks

First, let me talk about how I just tried to publish this and poof it was gone, so I am having to rewrite it. But it’s also giving me more time to think about whether social diversity exists online in social networks. My gut reaction is that online social networks are direct reflections of the offline world and thus we run with our own pack and very seldom do we like to step out of the bubble. Heres a quick test: Try doing a search on social diversity in social networks, there are no results or better yet, nothing with any substance. 

Although in doing an initial search, I did come across an interesting site called Mixyourworlds. The title should say it all but Mixyourworlds goal is to “put the fun back in racial profiling”. I say that tongue in cheek but they are dead serious. Mixyourworlds wants to help its members create diverse friend groups while helping them realize and change their racial biases. In fact it’s tagline is “Can racial profiling be fun?”

A noble if not challenging task to say the least. Especially when there are many many other larger, more well known social networks out there. Yes but are they diverse? That’s tough to say. But interestingly enough, when searching for friends on Facebook for example, you cannot search based on race. And why should you? or should you? I understand the premise. We want you to search on people not race, creed, or color.  Which means that you can search on people, just people… People with like minded interests but who may have a different skin color or ethnic background. You won’t know until you see their picture. Then you’ll make your snap or accelerated decision.

 But if we like to hang with people who are like us, another question arises, Do mixed race, mixed ethnicity relationships work better in social networks? Do they have a better chance of making it?

They do if the social network is niche based. They might have a better chance to flourish. Businessweek broaches the subject in the Rise of Niche Social Networks But really what we are talking about are 2 types of social networks here. We’re talking about the pasty white networks that are Facebook and MySpace and then all of the “other” social networks. Mixyourworlds’s “racial profiling” for instance, comes from tracking the make-up of users’ friends on the site and pointing out racial attraction preferences and biases. So if your looking to expand your social base beyond what MySpace and Facebook offer, then the thinking is that “yes there are plenty of other niche sites out there to meet exactly what you are looking for”. I know that is a direct conflict in trying to create a harmonious online social networking experience, but that may be more of a reflection of 21st century society than we care to admit.

After thinking about this long and hard, I decided to throw the question out to my Linkedin colleagues a few weeks ago.  The question wasn’t geared towards diversity in social networks per se, but you will understand the context as you read further. Here was the question:

Can social networking help the poor and the disadvantaged?

On the surface social networking seems to be reaching the far corners of the universe. But are the poor, the disadvantaged and even minorities, operating on an even playing field? Do class distinctions hold steady even in social networks?

One of the better answers came from Jason Breed from Neighborhood America:

Good question. I will answer in a couple of ways.
1. I’m making a couple of assumptions – it seems the spirit of your question is genuine and I do not believe you are trying to insight any prejudice or tensions by grouping anything together, you simply want to know if and where social nets are leveling the playing field and are there still inequities. the other assumption is that by “social networking” you are referring to digital social networking. In both of these cases, I”ll give you some examples where it has worked.
2. Case Studies (and a couple of different ways to think about it) – MOBILE – adidas has a campaign running “Basketball is a Brotherhood” targeted to basketball players at the street level or street-ballers. there is a mobile component to this campaign that lets you interact with any of the 5 sponsored players like T-Mac, KG, Chauncey Billups, etc. They have received over 100k people who have opted in via mobile that is a series of ongoing interactions. Consider Mobile as a way to engage populations who are less likely to be online or who want to connect whenever, however they want to.
The second example is the Government (believe it or not). Specifically working in the Miami area, the transportation department is mandated to reach out to citizens and provide fair access to information on any project and specifically on a road project that spanned 7 different neighborhoods of varying socio-economic and demographic residents. Using the web, the department was able to create dialogue with residents who were comfortable using the web in this way. The benefit is they were able to focus their limited amount of employees to meet face-to-face with more of the people who did not want to communicate via the web. This is in-direct however very effective use of social media in the gov sector. Who would have thought, right? I have dozens of other examples too. Hope this helps.

A great response that touches on a few points there. The most important being that social diversity can exist on may levels in online social networks, and is and can be accessible by more than just the privledged, affluent, white middle and upper class. Tom Ford, CEO of Town Connect puts it more succintly:

Interesting question. The public Internet and sites like MySpace remove economic, class and social barriers. Since anyone with internet access can interact with anyone else with Internet access.  People are communicating online with others that they would never interact with offline.

In the U.S, class distinctions are determined by wealth, income, education, and type of occupation.

Although Linked In enables greater interaction between classes (CEOs connecting with entry level workers) it still remains a social network for educated, higher income, knowledge workers.

Facebook began as a network for class distinction based on education – each university was their own network. The students at Harvard weren’t friending the kids at Podunk State in rural U.S. Today, networks are still established based on class distinctions – corporate, geographic, etc.

Our research and experience with TownConnect indicates people feel safest in social networks in their local community and with those they know. The class distinction in our network is based on where you live- which implies a level of income. Online social networks are mirrors of offline social networks, just accelerated.

Accelerated relationships. Couldn’t have said it any better than that. So do accelerated relationships promote the possibility of social diversity? No, if anything they imply that you make a quicker decision based on quick touch points, like ASL. People cut to the chase online and probablly as much do the same when reading profiles. You read a profile, you look for certain things. If you do not have access to a profile then what do you do, you look at a picture. Then you are going to make a decision based on that picture and nothing else. Looks like an accelerated decision is at hand.

Bottom line, social diversity in social networks probably has a better chance of succeeding online than it does offline since you can go out of the hood without the usual fear and backlash that accompanies someone who does the same in the offline world. Bottom line: We choose to run with our own pack even in the online world.

 

 

 

Are social networks good for society?

Some claim that being in a social network closes us off from the rest of society. To a certain degreee that might be true. In this freakonomics blog post find out what 6 distinguished social media observers feel are the pros, the cons, the good the bad and the ugly of what social networks bring to the table.

Can social media alter or change a company’s negative public perception

One of the great things that I love about Linkedin is that you can share information pretty freely with your peers. Of course isn’t that what social networking is supposed to be? One of the many ways that you can share and exchange information is by merely asking or answering industry specific questions.

As I was reading some questions and answers earlier today on Linkedin, I received a phone call from a client who had a client who had a problem. The problem was that this client who had been in business for over 15 years, had some disgruntled customers who had decided to take their grievance or beef online in the form of a forum and blog post. It was more than just one person but it was not an overtly large number.  One of the issues appeared to be that instead of calling or going directly to the client to vent or air their grievances, they decided to just go right online and post it. “To let the people know”!

As luck or the SERPS would have it, some of these posts and forums take on a life of their own. They morph into something larger than it really needs to be, and as I said the SERPS will keep these posts alive a lot longer than they need to be. In that pretty soon, when someone might do a search on Company A, instead of getting Company A’s website as the top search result, they get the angry blog post instead.  This effect that it has had on the company, it’s image and it’s ability to do business is and has been, to say the least, “not good”.

Don’t get me wrong, in some cases, this form of  online vigilante justice is completely warranted as a way to warn others, of unscupulous companies. But what about the companies that have been in business for over 15 years who do things on the up and up, and they just so happen to anger someone? They anger someone who knows how to blog.

Their reputation is forever linked to a SERP that reflects a possible isolated incident for all the world to see, and for all the world to come up with the “3 second impression”. i.e scan the results, read a negative blurb and come up with a negative impression. In other words; especially in the online world, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Or do you?

So I was asked if I could help. I’ve actually done it for other clients and it’s a tough haul. Like George Clooney’s role in Michael Clayton, I had been asked to go in and “clean up” a situation. So given that the call came in as I was answering a few questions on Linkedin, I thought that Linkedin might be a good forum to ask the following question: Could social media, given that it’s sites can be spidered very quickly by the search engines, be a way to alter or change a company’s negative public perception?

The answers have come in fast and furious and they really do hit on the touching points of what social media is, what social media can do and  what it cannot do. And as much as it is the 6th Estate, it still has some unwritten rules. But lets take a look at some of the responses and you tell me what you think.

This interesting answer to the question comes from Andrew Munro: I think the answer is “it depends…”. I’m fairly certain that a social media blitz will not be “enough to stem negative press” but it may help. One thing to be aware of is that changing any sort of negative perception requires a lot of time and energy. It’s not a quick fix. You need to identify what aspects of the perceptions are key and hen determine how to set about changing those. A first step would be to identify who the key influencers are on the subject, then think about how you build relationships with them to either support them (if positive) or to encourage them to change their views (if negative). Those are the individuals who – through their blogs etc – can help to change perception for you. ANother thing to be aware of is that you need to be subtle and considered about this. Any appearance of trying to manipulate opinion, buy opinion, deceive etc etc etc will blow up in your face and worsen the situation. Think carefully about what you are trying to achieve.

The next answer from Louis Rosas-Guyon  who says: “If the company addresses the issue frankly with an open and honest approach then they stand a solid chance of recovery. Americans love it when the guilty apologize. However, if the company adopts a position where they try to spin the situation or to attack then they are doomed to failure. I have always found it’s just better to tell the truth. It is amazing how quickly people rush to forgive you.”

Next up is Sallie Goetsch who really is blunt in her assertion that “Unless the company fixes the problem(s), *nothing* will stem the tide of bad publicity. And it’s better for any company to have a social media presence already established than to suddenly create profiles on all the networks and start sending “We don’t suck, really” messages out on Twitter.  Nevertheless, it seems that one company with a consistently bad rap, TSA, has managed to improve its relations with some of its public by means of a blog with open comments. Do everything you can to get your side of the story out–including using social media, but not forgetting more traditional media. But first, fix the problem.”Last up is Erin Berkery who states: “While not every company can alter their negative perception online, there are steps that can be taken both to improve public perception, and the performance of the company.
For example if a company finds a forum discussing their bad performance, it gives them a chance to answer in a specific and tailored way to people who often have had direct problems with their service.
I’ve worked for companies with web forums, and they would regularly post ‘How are we doing?” topics. This would allow them to address what comes up, and (if needed) apologize and deal with it in a professional way.
It also is a good place to explain nuances of the company that the consumers may not understand. It is useful why certain practices perceived as ‘bad’ might actually be better for the consumer.
However, in all of those situations the companies were actively looking to improve themselves, not just their image. If it’s just a PR blitz just to get the word out, many tech savvy people who are in social networks will not be impressed. Also if it is not followed consistently-for example if someone is in a forum for two days explaining why the company performed a certain action, and then never returns, the perception will be ultimately worse than if they were never online. “

So essentially what you are seeing is that all of these people, myself included, feel that though you can stem the negative perception, your best way to “react” to it is to be as proactive, forthright, and honest as you can in re-creating and expounding on your “real” or desired public persona. You are never going to please everyone but if you are upfront and address the issues in a social networking environment, it can go a long way in repairing and heading off any further misdirected public perception. What do you think?

M-commerce will work…for Gen Y…for now.

In the next 12 to 18 months analysts predict that m-commerce revenues will reach a half a billion dollars.  Pairing that with almost 300 million wireless customers, “someone” is going to be buying something through their wireless device. The question is who is that person? Is it the Baby boomer? No, they are just becoming comfortable with their computers and shopping online. Is it the Gen X’ers? No not yet, although they will follow pretty quickly as soon as the cool and the perceptive ease of use factors rises to a palatable level.

The answer my friend lies in your Gen Y users. The 15-29 users who just so happen to be your biggest social network users as well. This is, by no means coincidental. It makes complete sense on a lot of levels but here it is in its simplest terms. This generation is so technologically saavy that buying “things” using their mobile phones is nothing more than another viable option for spending money, communicating with their friends and being in the NOW.  It’s just another way to simplify their overly simplified “Me generation” entitled lives. It is a mere blip on the landscape that is their socialized technified world.

Not to sound bitter, and if I do it’s only because this generation can embrace a new technology so easily and so seamlessley that the projections for what kind of money might be generated might be underestimating the puchasing power of this group. The only way the numbers get pushed down is by overestimating the mobile purchasing power of a 15-19 year old who might not have a credit card to complete the transaction.

Gen Y users have 2 things working in their favor as well. 1) they account for almost a 100% ownership of cell phones and 2) have a purchasing power of almost $200 billion.  Add to this the fact that this group has no problem accessing the mobile web with relative ease, and couple it with their comfort level in regards to their expectation that mobile web sites meet their demands, and you have volatile mixture of a captive audience ready to buy with expendable cash.

In the next 12-24 months, marketers, consumers and advertisers will need to look to Gen Y to call the shots in regards to usage numbers, trends, and expectations. As soon as Gen X and the Boomers see how well it works for Gen Y. Look for M-commerce to explode. Look no further than Japan for a classic example, where in the last year e-tailers rang up almost $10 billion in revenue from M-commerce sales.


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Marc Meyer is a Digital and Social Media Strategist at DRMG. This is my personal blog where I share observations, thoughts and opinions that are all my own.

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